Tony has arrived in Arusha. He says he has a “positive” impression – sorta like when he kisses his sister (sorry Diana!) He says, “ . . . it is a tourist destination . . . safari tours abound.” Tony’s idea of tourism is hiking in the outback without a map on a “discovery” trip and safaris he will enjoy as he goes from farm to farm. Regardless, Tony is enjoying summer in east central Afrika beneath Mt Meru that he thinks was a volcano – maybe a miniature Mt Kilimanjaro which he describes this way: “Flying in I saw a great plain, that is, an immense plateau dotted with trees, dry looking. Rising from this was Mount Kilimanjaro with a mass of snow on the top and all down the sides, followed by a ring of white clouds and ending on the plain. Imposing. Beautiful.”
Tony is replacing Toshi who hails from Japan. “When Toshi looks at people in the streets he compares them to Japanese so they look bigger and heavier but when I look I see broad shouldered, slim wasted, and flat bellied.” Toshi is Tony’s guide and mentor for the next couple of weeks as Tony becomes familiar with Arusha, the World Food Programme (WFP) and writing without a pen! Yes, there were no pens in the WFP offices. Tony is beginning to realize that the world is a technological place – including Tanzania! Tony is quite comfortable doing his own business accounting on the backs of old envelopes (god help the poor sod the federal government sends to audit Tony’s “books”!) but he says now “I realize that most business is conducted on the cell phone and via email with information literally whizzing hell bent non-stop.” Welcome to the 21st Century in Afrika, Tony!
Back to Toshi and Arusha: “There are . . . street vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables. You can walk down leafy streets; you can walk down bare streets. There are clean areas and there are littered areas. People seem busy. Toshi took me to his favourite Saturday morning haunts: Breakfast spots and coffee spots and bookstores.”
Meanwhile Toshi and Tony are living in a pink motel/hotel owned and operated by a woman – “One sharp business woman. Nice too. But there’s a game to be played, the bargaining one.” The bargaining game began when WFP staff took Tony to look for another place to hang his hat . . . . very quickly the owner was on the phone saying she will, after all, rent the unit for only 600,000 shillings per month ($300) since Tony is a volunteer and she is a nice woman! So Tony stays 15 minutes from work and 15 minutes from downtown. Tony has a one room unit with a kitchen area and a bathroom. “Home” is a little constricting but now Tony knows why Toshi goes “downtown” on the weekends and particularly since they “are not to be out at night . . . so it is important to get out during the day.”
Tony is looking forward to a quick visit from Scott and Nancy (who will be on safari) as they stop briefly in Arusha. The neat thing that Tony discovered is a long line of “cafes and wee shops . . . directly across from the hotel [where Scott & Nancy are staying], where I braved lunch for 2,000 shillings or $1.20. [Lunch was a] standard fare of rice, beans and spinach. I felt proud to have negotiated this transaction. It is generally a place no tourist would go but I have been to a couple with Toshi and Abel the driver and felt capable. Hamburgers you do not get there. It is a matter of learning and adjusting and accepting and not being unnecessarily squeamish. Most Tanzanians would eat at these wee places. Perhaps it is like going to the Main in Montreal and eating steamées or Vancouver’s East side where I used to go to ‘The Only Seafood Restaurant’ (it is no longer, alas) that had really excellent oyster stew that could not be beat.”
“The children are a delight. Off they go to school in their uniforms. Some try a shy ‘Hi’ and laugh at my ‘habari’.”